BENDIGO'S John Higgs has received one of the country's greatest honours - the Order of Australia medal.
Mr Higgs was recognised for his service to education, the arts and the Bendigo community and said the award came as a complete surprise.
"I am delighted by it all," he said.
"It's something you don't expect but it is really nice that it has happened."
Mr Higgs played a pivotal role in re-founding of Girton Grammar School after the Bishop of Bendigo at the time announced the closure of Girton College in the 1990s.
He later become the foundation chairman of the school board and went on to found Friends of Girton.
"My two children were at the old school when it closed," he said.
"It was a really emotional time.
"I can remember Edward looking at me and asking, "why is it closing?".
"The journey since then has just been incredible.
"It is now an amazing school."
Mr Higgs has also had a long association with the Bendigo Art Gallery.
He was president of the board for more than 20 years, a life governor since 2005 and forms part of the board for the Melbourne Recital Centre.
He has also been involved with La Trobe University Visual Arts Centre and is a delegate for the Public Galleries Association of Victoria.
"I have a long-serving interest in art," Mr Higgs said.
"I think galleries are very important and they contribute a great deal to community culture.
"I also think everyone, no matter what sort of background you come from, deserves to be able to enjoy a gallery."
To add to his list of achievements, Mr Higgs is a former director of Country Racing Victoria, was chairman of the Bendigo Jockey Club in the 1990s and has been a life member since 2011.
"I really enjoyed my role in racing," he said.
Mr Higgs said his wife Betty, and children Edward and Alexia were very supportive and were proud of his OAM.
"They were very pleased and delighted," he said.